CW Notes

A week’s worth of developing stories, odd events, and signs of the times, culled from the desks, inboxes, and wandering eyes of the editors.

State’s out for summer
No gay marriage, no pension reform. A lot happened at the Illinois State Capitol in the last week of the spring legislative session, but like much politics, nothing quite materialized. Lawmakers seemed to be warming to gay marriage with the spring thaw, but bill sponsor Representative Greg Harris was forced to admit defeat late Friday with too many votes still undecided. Pension reform didn’t even have the guise of hope. The state has five public retirement systems which collectively fall $97 billion short of being able to pay its benefits in full–clearly not a new problem, but one that is gaining new urgency as payments start to mount. On Monday, investment rating services had already begun to downgrade the state’s credit score. Elected officials return to Springfield in the fall, with the 2014 elections looming overhead.

Let my bed bugs go
Even Jehovah’s plague of locusts could not soften Pharaoh’s hardened heart to the plight of the Israelites. So it goes with Chicago landlords, who are facing City Hall legislation regarding bed bug infestations. Earlier this year, Chicago was ranked as the most bedbug-infested city in the United States by Orkin Pest Control. Since that humbling event, the city government has united to bugger the bugs away. Chicago politicians, usually quarantined in City Hall with the vermin of their ilk, immediately banded together in spirits of unity in government to eradicate their only competition for “Most Vile Chicagoans.” In that sense of brotherhood of cause, the City Council has held forth on legislation that would fine landlords up to $2,000 a day for failing to take steps to cleanse their residents’ bedbug scourge. Pharaoh only relented when the Lord threatened to strike down first-born children–hopefully the vermin at city hall won’t have to resort to such drastic measures against the city landlords.

Taking fire
CeaseFire, the much-venerated anti-violence initiative, has found itself in a brutal imbroglio. Or rather, its director, Tio Hardiman, was arrested for domestic battery last week. Hardiman’s wife received a swollen lip, bruises, and a cut on her neck from the dispute, which Hardiman contests never even happened: “I have never put my hands on [my wife] and she knows it.” Whether or not Hardiman got handsily out-of-hand with his wife has already had an effect: CeaseFire sacked the bombastic boob, prompting this telling response: “After I helped raise $6 million a year for them, they couldn’t have enough respect for me to wait until the trial was over?” Although Hardiman claims to have put his money where his mouth is, the larger problem is that he put his fist where his wife’s mouth was.

Magical thinking
Senator Mark Kirk’s latest idea has been to announce that police should round up some 18,000 “known members” of the Gangster Disciples, taking in everyone from twelve-year-old initiate to long-time kingpin. Kirk says that these mass arrests could be executed swiftly and justified under the broad heading of “drug dealing.” To say that this fix is flatly senseless is to sell it short. Cook County jails only house 10,000 people, under First Amendment rulings it is unconstitutional to press gang members purely based on their affiliation, and doing so freely ignores the complex series of pressures that regularly push kids into fractious gangs. But what is admirable about Kirk’s solution is its consistency. The policy would cost $30 million in federal money even if the state conjured up more prisons. It takes an uncommon commitment to look back over the reactionary policies of the past decade and say with a straight face that the chief problem in this state is that not enough young black men are behind bars.